From our Chair: Rare bird colony must be protected

Jenny Hughey, Chair, Environment Canterbury

Jenny Hughey, Chair, Environment Canterbury

Several rare birds are dead after motorbike users rode through a colony of nesting black-billed gull|tarāpuka.

Last week, a group of motorbike users rode through a colony of rare black-billed gull|tarāpuka in the Ashley Rakahuri Regional Park, sadly killing ten of them. This is extremely disappointing and unacceptable behaviour, and we are exploring what our enforcement options are.

These beautiful birds are unique to New Zealand, mainly breeding on South Island braided rivers, are ‘nationally critical’ and rapidly declining, and are the most threatened gull species in the world. With current trends, they would further decline of around 70% over the next 30 years.

Keeping black-billed gulls|tarāpuka safe

However, this year has been a very successful breeding season in the colony, and we work closely with the Ashley Rakahuri Rivercare Group and the community to keep it safe. 

We monitor the area closely, and there is signage installed along the river advising park users about the nesting area, and concrete blocks are installed at entry points to deter vehicles. 

The measures we, and the Ashley Rakahuri Rivercare Group, have taken this season have been largely successful and the majority of park users have been respectful and avoided this area. 

The nesting area has been cordoned off since September to protect the colony and will be open in two weeks when the birds have fledged. 

The nesting areas are also protected by the Wildlife Act, which is administered by the Department of Conservation.

Statement on our investigation

Team leader parks and forest James Page said "Our investigation into this incident is ongoing, but at this stage, we believe it was caused by motorbike and quadbike users. We are aware of four-wheel drive vehicles also being used in the cordoned off area protecting the colony, and this activity is also being investigated.  

Every effort is taken to restrict traffic from entering the area, and until this incident, it was a very successful season for this rare black-billed gull colony. It’s extremely disheartening that this unacceptable behaviour occurred with only two more weeks of protections in place before the birds fledge.  

We have been observing the birds from a distance, to ensure they are not disrupted. From these observations, we have not seen any birds with injuries sustained from the incident."

Please contact us

If anyone sees anyone disturbing these colonies please call us on 0800 324 636.